Beomeosa

Beomeosa The temple is one of the three largest temples in the southeastern part of the Korea, along with Haein-sa and Tongdo-sa. It is also one of the ten most famous temples of Korea’s Hwaeom Sect of Buddhism (which preaches the doctrine of all encompassing harmony). Daeung-jeon (the main building) and the three-storied stone pagoda are some of the many cultural properties found here. Ilchumun, front gate of Beomeosa It is not known exactly when this gate was first constructed, although it is believed to have been rebuilt in 1614, during the reign of King Gwanghaegun, when Priest Myojeon-hwasang had several of the temple structures renovated. Records indicate that Priest Myeongheup-taesa had its two pillars replaced with stone in 1718 and that the structure was rebuilt by Priest Paegam-seonsa in 1781. Daeung-jeon Daeung-jeon is the name used for the main shrine of a Buddhist temple. Enshrined in this Daeung-jeon is Sakyamuni and two attendant Bodhisattvas. The brackets, eaves, and transom window are adroitly structured. Together with the exquisite workmanship of the colorful canopy, altar, and decorated back panel, this hall is one of the most outstanding examples of Buddhist architecture and woodwork from the Joseon period (1392-1910).   Stone Lantern…

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Japanese Onsen

Japanese Onsen An Japanese onsen (温泉) is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth. Onsen were traditionally used as public bathing places and today play a central role in directing Japanese domestic tourism. Onsen come in many types and shapes, including outdoor (露天風呂 or 野天風呂 roten-buro or noten-buro) and indoor baths. Baths may be either public run by a municipality or private (内湯 uchiyu) often run as part of a hotel, ryokan or bed and breakfast (民宿 minshuku). Onsen are a central feature of Japanese tourism often found out in the countryside but there are a number of popular establishments still found within major cities. They are a major tourist attraction drawing Japanese couples, families or company groups who want to get away from the hectic life of the city to relax. Japanese often talk of the virtues of “naked communion” (裸の付き合い hadaka no tsukiai) for breaking down barriers and getting to know people in the relaxed homey atmosphere of a ryokan with an attached…

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Nintoku-ryo Tumulus (Emperor Nintoku’s burial mound)

Nintoku-ryo Tumulus The Mozu area is where you will find many ancient burial mounds that are historically and academically valuable. Among them, the Nintoku-ryo Tumulus (Emperor Nintoku’s burial mound) is a keyhole-shaped tomb that is the biggest in the country. The keyhole-shaped tomb structure is unique to Japan and is characteristic of its shape that looks like a combination of a circle and a square when seen from above. Approximately 486 meters long and 35 meters high, the Nintoku-ryo Tumulus is constructed in three layers. It has a total area of approximately 46.5 hectares. Possibly, this burial mound was built in the 5th Century and its construction may have taken about 20 years. Having an area that is the biggest in the world, it is counted as one of the world’s three largest imperial mausoleums along with the pyramid of the Pharaoh Khufu in Egypt and the mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor in China. Although surrounded by three moats, the outer moat we see today was dug again in the Meiji era. Clay images resembling humans, birds, horses, dogs, and houses have been excavated while a pit-style stone chamber and Nagamochi-shaped stone coffin have been discovered.  

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Jeju Island

Geography Jeju Island is a volcanic island, dominated at its center by Hallasan, an extinct volcano 1,950 meters high and the highest mountain in South Korea. The remainder of the island is formed by about 360 smaller “Orum” cones surrounding the Hallasan volcano. The basalt-and-lava island was formed entirely from volcanic eruptions two million to one million years ago, with minor volcanic activity since until the most recent eruption around 8,000 B.C.E. Jeju-do’s location in the ocean, south of the mainland of Korea gives is a subtropical climate, warmer than the rest of Korea, with an annual mean temperature of about 16°C, and four distinct seasons. Half of the summer is rainy, and the winter is fairly dry. Lava Cliffs on the Jeju coast A waterfall in Jeju’s island paradise. Traditional Jeju houses, with their unique style of thatching, tied down to protect against ocean winds. Jeju is often referred to as a land of three kind of abundance—Seokda (rocks), as Jejudo is located on a volcanic island, with spectacular rock formations, Pungda (wind), because the island frequently has to battle against typhoon winds, as evidenced by the stone walls surrounding the fields, and the distinctive style of roof-thatching, tied down by straw rope, and Yeoda (women),…

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Jeongseon’s Natural Beauty Endures the Passage of Time

Jeongseon’s Natural Beauty Endures the Passage of Time It felt like a journey in time. Walking along a winding path of a silent mountain, the commotion and drone of the bustling city, which I had just passed by, quickly became a distant memory. The sloping fields at the foot of the mountains are strewn with stones and sparse growths of buckwheat, corn, and bean stalks. At dusk, smoke arises from the chimneys of low-roofed houses, lying in the shadows of stately mountains. In no time, darkness covers the village, situated deep in the mountains, where the sun seems to descend faster. Beyond this nostalgic landscape, I head toward Jeongseon, which warmly welcomes me with open arms, like some long-lost relative.  In the past, Jeongseon was known as a place to which you “arrive crying” and from where you would “depart crying.” Newly appointed magistrates would arrive in tears, ruing their misfortune of being assigned to such a backwater area. Over time, however, they would come to love the area’s graceful scenery and the warm-heartedness of its residents.  Then, they would depart Jeongseon in tears upon the completion of their assignment. The mountainous terrain and remoteness of Jeongseon seem to go hand…

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The Wonders of the Jangdokdae

The Wonders of the Jangdokdae One of the many words in Korean daily life that it is impossible to translate into English is jangdokdae. The commonly used term “storage platform” leaves readers who are unfamiliar with Korea at a loss to imagine what is being stored or how. If you visit a traditional Korean house with a large enough yard or garden around it, especially in the rural areas, you will find a platform, sometimes slightly raised above the ground level, holding a number of larger and smaller brown pottery crocks, usually covered with lids of the same color. If the sun is shining, you may find that the lids of some have been removed and that the tops are covered with gauze to keep the flies out. One or two may have more modern lids containing glass through which the sun can shine. Rural restaurants and the larger Buddhist temples often have a fine array of such crocks, known in Korean as hangari or onggi.   The dictionary will tell you that these pots contain “sauces and condiments.” These vague terms are partly explained by the problem of finding adequate English words for doenjang and gochujang, usually rendered as “bean paste” and “red pepper paste,” although “soy…

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